Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : David Stewart (University of Calgary)
Session Abstract: This panel brings together several Canadian scholars working on different facets of political leadership. Two of the papers concern leadership in Canada while two compare the Canadian case with other countries. While the papers differ in their main question, methodological approach and level of analysis, they share a similar focus on understanding how elites in power exercise (or seek to exercise) leadership over followers. Moreover, all the papers here consider leadership in modern contexts, marked by factors such as populism, neoliberalism, administrative complexity or the power of social media.
Given that a mere handful of Canadian political scientists study the subject of leadership, and these people are scattered across the country, the opportunity to confer at meetings such as annual Canadian Political Science Conference is an extremely important one. In view of the fact that the authors participating on this panel proposal are located at four different universities in three provinces that stretch from sea to sea (New Brunswick; Ontario; and British Columbia), the chance to discuss our leadership research during a common panel session is very much appreciated.
“How Similar are Canadians and Americans in Evaluating the Character of Political Leaders?”: Cristine de Clercy (Western University), Gerard Seijts (Western University) Abstract: In exploratory research, we investigate whether a recently developed framework of leader character, grounded in the business administration literature, has any utility for understanding how citizens value the character of modern political leaders. We are interested in whether the entire leader character framework, or only a subset of its dimensions, are valued by Canadian and American citizens with respect to judging national political leaders. As well, we are interested in comparing the populations towards understanding the effects, if any, of political culture on leader evaluation, along with partisanship, income and gender. We hypothesize that the two populations will be more similar than different, except in the case of partisanship. The hypothesis is tested in two opinion surveys conducted two years apart: in 2016 and again in 2018 (where the ‘n’ is approximately 1,000 people in each wave.) Among other findings, we conclude that although Canadians and Americans are remarkably similar in the sorts of ideal leader character dimensions they value, this similarity is attenuated among conservative voters. Canadian conservatives are significantly different than their American counterparts in terms of their leader character preferences, and this difference carries implications for the waxing of populism in Canada.
Tweeting Power: The Communication of Leadership Roles on Prime Ministers’ Twitter: Kenny Ie (Simon Fraser University) Abstract: This paper examines the communication of leadership roles by prime ministers Justin Trudeau and Theresa May on Twitter. Given that ninety-four percent of online Canadian adults have at least one social media account, with forty-two percent on Twitter (Gruzd et al., 2018), these questions are crucial to understanding the personalized, unmediated relationship of leaders and followers in modern political communication. Studies of political leaders and social media have generally focused on two themes: the potential of social media to facilitate participatory democratic politics and social media use during election campaigning (e.g., Davis et al. 2016; Jungherr 2015; Parmelee and Richard 2012; Small 2011, 2014). In contrast, the role of social media in communicating leadership frames outside of campaigns is relatively unexplored. Tweets from prime ministers, for example, carry not only content but information about how prime ministers lead and what their job entails. In turn, followers’ expectations of prime ministerial leadership, and their evaluations of whether those expectations are met, are shaped by what they see prime ministers doing on social media. Employing content analysis methods, I examine how Prime Ministers Trudeau and May frame their leadership on Twitter in terms of role performance (e.g., education, advocacy, reassurance, mobilization) and prime ministerial function (e.g., party leader, head of government, chief executive, national representative). Assessing how prime ministers’ tweets reflect these two dimensions contributes to our understanding of evolving leader-follower dynamics in the age of social media.
Maple-Glazed Populism: Charting the Evolution of Right-Wing Populist Leadership, Ideology and Discourse in Canada: Brian Budd (University of Guelph) Abstract: While initially immune to the outbreak of right-wing populism observed in other established western democracies, recent elections and political developments at the provincial and federal levels of politics demonstrate that populism has entered the political mainstream in Canada. My paper examines these developments in a broader historical context by charting the evolution of right-wing populist leadership and discourse in Canada. Using existing genealogical frameworks of right-wing populist ideologies, the paper advances the argument that contemporary populist leadership in Canada has largely developed to adopt the discursive and ideological tenents of what scholars have defined conceptually as ‘neoliberal populism’. This argument is support by a comparative analysis of populist leaders and discourses beginning with the Reform Party in the late 1980s. While initially rooted in ethnic and cultural anxieties that included concerns involving immigration, ethnic integration and multiculturalism, populist discourse in Canada began to shift under the Stephen Harper-led Conservative Party (2004-2015) toward the adoption of neoliberal signifiers and discourses. This shift in populist discourse occurred in relation to a purposefully effort made by the Conservative Party to strengthen the appeal of Conservative politicians among ethnic minorities. The paper concludes by offering an analysis of recent Canadian political leaders invoking cultural and social issues within their populist discourse, arguing that it represents a blending of radical right-wing populist ideology with neoliberal populist discourses that have proven successful within the cultural and social context of Canada.
Leadership as Entrepreneurship – A Disability Nonprofit Atlantic Canadian Profile: Mario Levesque (Mount Allision University) Abstract: Leadership in the nonprofit sector including the disability sector has grown in importance in the past 30 years as governments have increasingly downloaded their social policy implementation role to civil society actors (Levesque & Graefe, 2013; White, 2008). Whether this is good is debatable (for example see Young and Everitt, 2004; Shragge, 2003; Elson, 2011) and significant challenges remain especially for nonprofits in economically challenged provinces such as those found in Atlantic Canada (Levesque, 2012; Graefe & Levesque, 2010). The increased role for and competitive climate disability nonprofits now find themselves in calls into question the leadership and skills required of their leaders. This paper examines disability organization Executive Directors to take stock of their skill sets and leadership styles and argues that existing leadership models insufficiently capture their operating logic. Given the neoliberal turn, it argues that disability leaders have become entrepreneurs in this turbulent period of shrinking government support coupled with an increased demand for services. and questions whether this aids or frustrates social citizenship for people with disabilities.
From a methodological perspective, the investigation is based on 58 open-ended interviews with disability nonprofit Executive Directors and government disability program managers in Atlantic Canada, as well as documentary evidence (primary and academic literature).